Yesterday, thanks to Facebook Memories, I was reminded of my daughter graduating from San Diego State University three years ago. And there, in those beautiful pictures I could see the excitement in her eyes. At first glance those eyes said, “Yes I’m done!” But behind those eyes I could see questions. She was thinking, “What’s next? What am I going to do now?”
Some will continue to higher degrees, but many aren’t sure what life holds for them after they get their diplomas. As a parent and a life coach, I can’t stress enough the importance of giving new grads the support they need at this time.
Now that they’ve graduated, the world is their oyster. Armed with a degree, they have opportunities to make a difference in the world with their new-found tools. And, yet, these “new opportunities” may be daunting as they work toward figuring out what they want to do. They’ve done all the work, read the books, studied the right classes and now it’s time to put all that to good use.
As these young people forge their path through adulthood, there are many areas of life they need to consider, but these five may be the most pressing.
Start by having them dream a bit about the lifestyle they imagine for themselves. What do they want to work towards? Do they imagine themselves as public figures, family-oriented individuals, career go-getters, or all the above?
The expectation should not be that they will immediately walk into the life they ultimately want. But knowing what they want will clarify what opportunities they can capitalize on while working toward that lifestyle.
Do they need time off? They’ve worked hard for the last four years and they may just need a break. Whether it’s the proverbial trip to Europe for a month, time to write a book, reading books, exercising, or simply taking a break from the rigors of study and career while they sort out what it they really want.
Do they know where they want to be, but haven’t figured out the best way to get there?
This is likely the most common question that new graduates face. Do they get a job, or do they start their career?
A job is something that brings in money to pay the bills. It may not be the career they want, but it allows them to become responsible young adults who earn a living wage.
A career is a job leading up to something they want to do moving forward. For me, I had no idea what I was going to do with my Business Administration degree. I was lucky I fell into a job, shortly after graduation, that lead into my career. It happens different ways for everybody.
Graduates need to explore their interests and decide how they can exploit those interests to do what they want in the long term. This will open a clearer path toward a career that excites them.
Regardless of whether they’ve started a career or not, graduating from college is a major milestone in becoming an adult. They must take a real look at their financial situation and establish a budget.
Many graduates are coming out of school with debts to pay. As they venture into the wide world, they are taking on more and more responsibility for their own finances. What does that budget look like?
Part of your job in supporting your graduate may be a financial one. Whether that’s letting them stay at home while they start their career or agreeing to pay their phone or their car insurance while they get started, there is nothing wrong with offering limited support while they find their path.
Even if you aren’t supporting them financially, you owe it to them to have serious conversations about what expenses they can take on at this point in their life. Help them see where they need to be a year, three years and five years from now to be financially independent young adults.
Where they are financially will play a large role in where and how they are living. They may find themselves completely on their own for the first time in their lives. They need to examine several key factors about how they’re going to put a roof over their heads.
First, is where they will be geographically. They may want to continue living locally, near home. (They may even choose to live AT home!) If they went away to school, they may want to stay nearer to their campus. A career opportunity, friends or a significant other may also play a large part in their decision on where they want to live.
Second, is how they want to live. Most grads don’t walk off the stage and buy a home. This means renting. But even then, there are choices: apartment or house, roommates or alone, and even the possibility of living with a significant other. How does this help or hinder the lifestyle they imagine for themselves?
Finally, with all these possibilities lay new responsibilities. Young adults must learn how to engage with people regarding their living situation. They need to learn the ins-and-outs of rental contracts and agreements, how to set up their utilities, and some may even have to learn how to write a check.
If they choose to live with others, they need to learn what’s expected within that partnership; the responsibilities, the boundaries, and the commitment to the household.
These five areas are intertwined, but perhaps the most pervasive of these is the role relationships play in the life of a new graduate. All relationships have an impact on these new choices. Family and friends are important, but perhaps the role of a significant other has the highest emotional impact in their life.
As close as these relationships form the last four years may be, everybody is in the same boat, making similar decisions about how they will live their lives. Someone close to them may choose to move away, and a young person will have to find a way to stay in contact or evaluate the relationship and decide how much effort both parties are willing to spend in continuing their relationship.
There is a lot of career information out there, lots of advice on what college graduates should be doing once they’ve shed their robes and mortarboards. The areas I’ve outlined here, go more into what immediate decisions are emotionally impacting the life of a new grad.
Graduating from college is a big deal and worthy of celebration. Have a party! But our responsibility as those supporting these graduates needs to take their emotional decisions into account. The best support they can get is a friendly face, a willing conspirator, and a non-judgmental sounding board as they embark on this exciting journey.
Good luck, graduates!